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Wedding Planner Help: Wedding Speeches

Both formal and informal weddings usually include speeches of some sort. Speeches are often dreaded and groaned at, but if they are done well they can be a highlight of the reception.

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Who gives wedding speeches? Traditionally, the best man, groom and bride's father do speeches, and each has certain tasks to perform. Many brides now also give a speech, as may the maid of honour, mother of bride or groom and many other  people involved - we recently had a wedding where nine different people actually gave a speech! Yes, it took some time but most of them were entertaining and all enjoyed the evening!  The Master of Ceremonies will introduce each speaker, but generally speeches are held in the following order:
 

   1. Bride's Father, Family friend or clergyman:

    Compliments couple
    May give some wisdom on marriage
    May give amusing stories about bride or couple
    Closes with toast to “Happy Couple” or “Bride and Groom”

 

    2. Groom replies:

    Thanks first speaker, guests (gifts & presence), special mentions
    Thanks bride's family for wedding (if appropriate) & their daughter
    Thanks own parents
    Thanks bridesmaids & groomsmen
    Proposes toast to bridesmaids

 

   3. Best Man replies:

    Accepts toast to attendants
    May add stories or reflections on couple
    Thanks parents as host
    Closes with toast to “Health of all four parents”

 

    4. Best Man reads telegrams and other messages

 

    5. Bride's Father speaks, if he hasn't already done so:

    Thanks all for coming
    Invites all to enjoy proceedings

Although it is not traditional, some Brides and Grooms toast each other during the reception. This can be done during the speeches, but doing so during the cutting of the cake reinforces the romance and intimacy of their first food together. Formal rehearsal dinners also have speech requirements

  1.     Best man toasts the Bride
  2.     Bride toasts the Groom
  3.     Groom toasts the Bride's Mother
  4.     Bride's Father toasts the Groom's parents (optional)

What do I say? You've been asked to speak at a wedding and, once the excitement dies down, you wonder, “what do I say? I've never done a speech before.” Fear not, a speech can be planned and it is important to always remember that the couple asked YOU to speak; they have faith in you and want to share their special day with you.

Firstly, make sure you know what sort of wedding is it to be – is it formal or casual? Who is in the bridal party? Does the couple have any particular guidelines for you? Always keep these things in mind, as then your speech will compliment the overall celebration. The aim of all wedding speeches is to accentuate the positives, and ignore any negatives. That means avoid mentioning the problems leading up to the day, your weaknesses in speech giving and anything that could embarrass the bridal couple. It is essential to plan your speech – very, very few people can deliver a good speech without preparation. Having a plan makes it easier to fit in all points in a logical way and actually gives you confidence when it comes to present it. Wedding speeches are best when short, especially if guests are to be standing to listen. Thus, one or two main points with a story or two for each will be enough.

Choose the tone of your speech – do you want to show some qualities of the Groom, some fun times you've shared or a history of the couple? Maybe a mixture of these will suit. Having a theme will help the speech flow, keep it personal and be easier for you to remember.  Unless you are very sure of the guest list and the couple's reactions, keep the entire speech clean and appropriate. Many weddings include elderly guests, clergymen, children and others who may easily offended. To make the speech enjoyable for everyone, avoid using stories or jokes that are dependant on some particular prior knowledge. If only two people laugh at your joke, you will feel silly and other guests will feel left out. Remember that the speech is to be heard, not read, so make sure it matches the way you talk. Don't use words or phrases that are not part of your normal speech as they will sound uncomfortable and distract from your meaning. If you can manage it, try to include things from the wedding in your speech. For instance, mention overheard comments or the atmosphere at the ceremony. This will make the speech very personal and catch everyone's interest. However, if you are feeling very nervous, just stick to a planned speech. Wherever possible, mention people by name, whether they are in the bridal party or an invited guest. Professional speechwriters can do this for you, as long as you provide all appropriate information. Depending on your time, budget and confidence, this may be something to consider.

How do I give a speech? It is said that fear of public speaking is our most common one, so don't worry if this task frightens you – you're not alone! Having a planned speech that you have practised will make it easier to present. People talk differently to how they read, so it is best not to just read out a speech from a piece of paper as then no one can see your face and it is harder to hear you. If you have practised enough, much of it will come to you regardless of the nervousness you feel. Instead of writing out your speech word for word to hold at the reception, list the main points on small cards (eg back of business cards) that can remain in the palm of your hand as you speak. You can refer to these cards to check what was planned next, but look at your audience for the majority of your speech. Either there will be an MC introducing you, or you will be told exactly when your speech will be required (eg “after the Groom's speech.”) When it is your turn, wait until there is quiet before starting your speech – there is no point talking over other guests. Speak confidently and clearly so that you can be understood. When speaking in public, many people rush their words, so you need to speak slowly – it may seem too slow to you, but it will be comfortable to your audience. Taking frequent pauses is a good tool as it allows you to keep pace and manage your nerves at the same time. The volume you need to use will depend on the size of the room and whether or not you have a microphone to use. It is wise to check this out beforehand and arrange an on-site practise if possible.

Most importantly, relax as much as you can and enjoy the wedding!